Mind the Baby, Mammy Guilt, www.mindthebaby.ie

Guilt, mammy style

I’m not going to beat around the bush with this one, I’m just going to tell it as I see it. Other mammies reading this, please don’t take offense. I’m talking about me and only me here…

Mind the Baby, Mammy Guilt, www.mindthebaby.ie
Courtesy of http://www.xiomaramaldonado.com

When I went back to work after maternity leave – 16 long months ago now – I thought I was going to fuck up my kid.

I was going back full time and he was going to creche. He was 11 months old and very, very attached to me.

Everything worthwhile that I had read about parenting said that children under two were better off in the full time care of their mothers or a primary care giver. They also said that a shared childcare option with children of the same age was the least desirable. That made me feel pretty crappy. But theory is all well and good when reality is beating your door down with a ball wrecker. Anecdotally, I noticed that daughters of friends seemed to adjust better to childcare than their sons. The little boys found it much harder to settle. As did we.

I wondered if my working full time was going to affect his development and our relationship. I wondered if I was interfering with the person he was meant to be by not meeting his needs on a full time basis. We had bouts of separation anxiety where I couldn’t be out of his sight for a minute or he’d want to be up in my arms all the time. And the little voice said “this wouldn’t be happening if you were at home full time…”

Then during the summer the three of us had three weeks off together and I remember wondering – stupidly – “is it a good idea to take such a long holiday? Will it make it harder for him to settle back into creche?”. A fleeting thought and a stupid, stupid, stupid one. This is what the constant gnawing of mammy guilt does to you. Essentially, my eejit brain was suggesting that I spend less time with my son so that when I’m not around anyway he won’t feel so bad. WTF? That sounds like some kind of Gina Ford shit to me.

Instead, two whole new revelations were uncovered. The three weeks off together as a family was just brilliant but even though Pip had access to me literally 24/7, he still wanted me all of the time. Only I could carry him around. I had a companion for every trip to the loo. Many suggestions from Daddy were answered with “no, mammy do it”. So in many ways, this was a relief because it was obvious to me that even if I was at home full time, he would be just as demanding of my time, my attention and my touch as he is anyway.

That helped to alleviate the mammy guilt. I have no issue at all with my son wanting to be with me all the time, in fact I cherish it. It gives me comfort to know now that it’s not specifically because I work and he goes to creche. It is just the type of person that he is.

The second revelation was that my concerns about our “too long holiday” were completely unfounded. He toddled into creche the following Monday we were back with a cheerful wave and a spring in his step. Nobody saw that coming, let me tell you!

To come full circle, a couple of weeks ago Mr Mind the Baby was away for work over a weekend and it was just myself and Pip together. We had a really great weekend. There was nothing particularly special about it but it just felt like a lovely old time. Monday rolled around, and he was like a sticking plaster come creche drop off. Ah hello mammy guilt, I wondered where you’d been hiding.

I love this woman, she speaks much sense. Read her book! Image courtesy of www.pantley.com
I love this woman, she speaks much sense. Read her book!
Image courtesy of www.pantley.com

I think there is no win to this feeling of guilt for me. There is no “right” solution, just different decisions. I can’t guarantee that if I was at home full time with the full concentration of a toddler down on top of me that I wouldn’t be resentful, no matter how much I think some days I’d love to be a stay at home mother. I do know without a doubt that I’d need a “something” just for myself, for a couple of hours at least everyday.

I think I’ll probably struggle with the greener grass of motherhood on some level for the rest of my life.

Am I alone?


22 thoughts on “Guilt, mammy style”

  1. Mammy guilt, the worst of them all. From the other side of the coin, mine never attended creche, the guilt was there anyway. Should I be doing more with them instead of letting them watch me work from home. Are they watching too much tv? If I worked full time I would have money to bring them on holiday…….It will always be there regardless of what choices you make.
    I came home yesterday afternoon and the youngest and au pair were not here. It was raining. They arrived in five minutes after me. I asked her where she was “Out looking for you mammy”……JAYSUS. I would love to tell you it gets easier and you get more confident in your choices, I really would………..

    1. This might sound like serious Schadenfreude but it does actually make me feel better to hear you say that. It helps to know that the guilt is probably there no matter what side of the fence you’re on. Thank you xx

  2. Nope, you’re not. I’m not due back to work until the end of February and I’m already beating myself up about it on a daily basis!

    1. Oh don’t beat yourself up lady! February is aaaaaaages away. But I know what you mean. I’ve been that soldier. It’s not as bad as you think, I promise. x

  3. You’re certainly right about the clingy phases, I can tell you that much. Mine were (more or less) never apart from me until they were 2 and a half, and they both went through very clingy phases before then (and after) where if I so much as put them down and stayed in view five feet away they would bawl as if I was abandoning them to a life of destitution.

    Kids in creche learn a ton from being there. Kids at home get more mama time. They all turn into the person they were always going to be. Mama guilt is a bottomless well that we should all just try to stop visiting.

    1. You’re right. It’s not a nice place to visit. I try not to go there but they keep sending me money off vouchers!

      Thank you, it’s very reassuring to hear your experience.

  4. I think we feel guilty when we’re at work because we’re away from them, and we feel guilty during times at home when it’s stressful because we know it would be less stressful it we weren’t rushing in and out of work, and then during the good times at home, we feel guilty because we think “oh if only I didn’t work, it would always be like this!”
    No matter what, we’ll always feel guilty as long as we work. For me it’s about finding a level you can live with, most of the time anyway!

  5. Nope. It took one of my boys over three months to settle in at creche. It was/is my sisters place and he roared himself into exhaustion every day for that length of time. The thing that kills me about it today is, he didn’t have to go. I was/am a SAHM but was brainwashed into thinking he needed to be there, that it was good for him. I wonder would his self confidence today be any better had I not insisted he go to creche so young? He tends to cling to one friend and refuses to consider letting anyone else in. He is now almost 6 and the guilt over it is horrible.

    1. I pulled my 2 year out of his fabulous creche at the end of July because of people making me feel that he shouldn’t be there while I was at home on maternity leave with the newborn. He went twice a week and he loved it. I have now lost his place and will have to find somewhere new to send him in March when I go back to work. And he has to go through that settling in period all over again. When will I learn that Mama does in fact know best!

      1. It’s so hard though kc isn’t it when you’ve lots of voices chiming in with their opinions and suggestions, especially when you’re vulnerable in pregnancy and then with a newborn. I’m confident you’ll find a new crèche just as fabulous – or maybe a spot will open up in the old place.

        Congratulations on your new little one!

    2. No, Gwen, no. I can say this with confidence – crèche is not a bad place. It’s the guilt that’s the bad thing. I know Pip is fine when he’s in there because I can see him and he’s having the craic and learning things. One of the pre-montie teachers said something to him in Irish the other day and he turned around to me and put his fingers to his lips and said “shhhh”. I didn’t even understand what she said! He’d never learn something like that with me. Big hugs lady, you did nothing wrong. We are terribly hard on ourselves xxxx

  6. God the mama guilt! I gave up work when I had my daughter a year ago…literally couldn’t leave her so wasn’t a choice per se. You’d think I’d be delighted with myself for doing what I feel is the “right thing” but I feel guilty about literally EVERYTHING. ALL THE TIME. Like am I making her weird by not letting her socialise, will she grow up shy because she didn’t have to make friends etc. I say we all just pat ourselves on the backs and plough on as best we can.

    1. I’m laughing now! The state of us! Here we are all with different stories and all feel guilty. You’re right, we should be patting ourselves on the back 🙂

  7. I have always said it…once that placenta is delivered the gulit-gland starts growing!! I had the good luck to never go back to work or put my kids in creche but I still had that ‘Velcro baby’ thing going on.It isn’t always easy but it passes,leaving us relieved and in the belief that we now have parenting sorted and there are no further challenges to come knocking……wrong sister!!

  8. Oh Mammy guilt, you evil POS. My kids were full time day care, even with special needs, and it is part of why I got addicted to pain pills. Even though I now have lost all that set of M guilt as there is no way I would have given my daughter with CP the stimulation and inspiration to do stuff if I was a SAHM. Wish I could have known it then and slept better. Found you when I Googled “sober as a judge” which I am now, having lost my mind first. We really do need to be less hard on ourselves.

  9. I have experienced the Mammy guilt too! I’m a stay at home mammy and my LO is 22 months soon. I gave up my job because childcare is a) expensive b) I wanted to be here for her. I felt so much guilt thinking of even going back to work so in the end we knew it would make sense to stay at home. Guilt is now setting back in- Am I holding her back? Does she need to be with her peers? So now thinking of sending her to creche 1 day a week! No matter what the situation I think all of us experience the mammy guilt at some stage. Sorry this comment is really long. Great post. 🙂

  10. Great article and yes the mammy guilt is there regardless of your work/life choices. I left work after my first child was born but for about a year I found myself with a baby, a young and demanding toddler, all friends back at work, family far away and hubby working long hours. I look back at that one particular year and cringe… all I remember is the stress, the tiredness and how much I seemed yell. I don’t think there is any right answer it is just trying to work out what you can handle and what works best for you all OVERALL. I realise that calm mammy means happy kids so I try to work on that. Do I achieve it? Not often… but apparently they still love me!

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